Women in Prison

Women in Prison

In the last 25 years, the number of women and girls caught in the US criminal justice system has skyrocketed; many have been swept up in the “war on drugs” and a tough-on-crime legislation. Women of color from lower socioeconomic backgrounds have been sepecially hard hit.

At the end of 2001, in the United States 93,031 women were incarcerated in federal and state prisons. In 2010, Over 200,000 women are behind bars. Hispanic women are incarcerated nearly twice the rate of white women, and black women are incarcerated at four times the rate of white women.

The number of women in US prison increased by 646% between 1980 and 2010, rising from 15,118 to 112,797.1, Including women in local jails, more than 205,000 women are now incarcerated. In that period, the number of women in prison increased at nearly 1.5 times the rate of men (646% versus 419%).

The imprisonment rate for females decreased by 2.9% from 2011 to 2012, from 65 female prisoners per 100,000 U.S. female residents to 63 per 100,000.

As of 2010, more than 1 million women were under the supervision of the criminal justice system.
o Prison           112,797
o Jail                  93,300
o Probation     712,084
o Parole           103,374

The lifetime likelihood of imprisonment for women is 1 in 56; however, the chance of a woman being sent to prison varies by race. 8 As of 2010, the lifetime likelihood of imprisonment was:
o 1 in 18 for black women
o 1 in 45 for Hispanic women
o 1 in 111 for white women

From 2000 to 2010, the rate of incarceration decreased 35% for black women and increased 28% for Hispanic women, and 38% for white women

Differences between incarcerated women and men
Women are more likely to be in prison for drug and property offenses, while men are more likely to be in prison for violent offenses.



Imprisonment Rate 1977:  129                      Female Imprisonment Rate 1977:  10
Imprisonment Rate 2004:  486                      Female Imprisonment Rate 2004:  64
Total Female Sentenced Prisoners 1977:       11,212
Total Female Sentenced Prisoners 2004:       96,125
Percent Increase 1977-2004:                          757 %
Aver. Annual Percent Increase 1977-2004:     8 %
Percent Increase 1999-2004:                            17 %



Imprisonment Rate 1977: 224 (4th)              Female Imprisonment Rate 1977 18 (3rd)
Imprisonment Rate 2004: 574 (5th)              Female Imprisonment Rate 2004: 77 (11th)
Total Female Sentenced Prisoners 1977:            493
Total Female Sentenced Prisoners 2004:         3,433
Percent Increase 1977-2004:                          596 %
Aver. Annual Percent Increase 1977-2004:     8 %
Percent Increase 1999-2004:                            32 %

Mental Health Issues
Nearly three-quarters (73%) of women in state prisons in 2004 had symptoms of a current mental health problem, compared to 55% of men.
Women in prison are also more likely to harm themselves than men.Many women have multiple illnesses at once, such as substance abuse, trauma, and mental health issues, making it difficult to diagnosis mental health issues alone.

Domestic Violence
In the State of Georgia, where these portraits were taken, the GA Department of Corrections released data in 1992 that indicated that of the “235 women doing time for murder or manslaughter in Georgia, 44% killed a husband or lover, and 96% of those women revealed the presence of domestic violence in the relationship (J.O. Hansen, “Is Justice Taking a Beating?” The Atlanta Constitution, April 26, 1992, A1-A7).

Sexual Abuse
The majority of women incarcerated experience abuse before prison and while incarcerated and suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder. A study published in the Journal of Nervous & Mental Disease found that in Correctional Institution for Women in Rhode Island 48.2% of the inmates met criteria for current PTSD and 20.0% for lifetime PTSD. The study noted that oftentimes female inmates suffered a history of sexual abuse or physical abuse in their childhood.

In most of the Western world, female prison guards exclusively guard female prisoners. Until the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the 1972 Equal Employment Opportunity Act, this was true in the United States. Both acts integrated the workforce, and after the acts passed male employees gained increasingly direct contact with female prisoners.
In 2008 [according to recent Bureau of Justice Statistics], more than 216,600 people were sexually abused in prisons and jails… overall, that’s almost six hundred people a day- twenty-five an hour.” In 2005, the Office of the Inspector General and the DOJ released a report documenting widespread sexual abuse by prison employees nationwide. Few of these were arrested, and only 3% charged, indicted, or convicted.


* http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Incarceration_of_women)



* https://www.aclu.org/prisoners-rights/women-prison

* http://www.nij.gov/topics/corrections/reentry/employment.htm

On life sentences in Georgia: http://www.houstonda.org/houston-county-law-school/how-long-is-life-in-georgia.html


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